Question: Is two-time World Champion, currently retired Brazilian Gabriel Medina a high renaissance masterpiece?

The ideal man?

Matt George, days ago, wrote an art criticism piece worthy of the ages comparing Snapper Rocks to Dante’s Purgatorio and wow. Did you read? Love? I haven’t dipped into the comments yet but have to think you did. Surfing reaching into the heights of high culture matters and means something and I can’t imagine anything other than real applause.

Well, in response to these new things, this certain information that has come to light, I sorted my eye and examined a recent piece by the august Derek Rielly titled WORLD SURFING CHAMPION GABRIEL MEDINA REUNITES WITH HALF-SISTER AND SURF PRODIGY SOPHIA FOLLOWING BREAKUP OF MARRIAGE TO SPORTS ILLUSTRATED MODEL YASMIN BRUNET AND RAPPROCHEMENT WITH ESTRANGED MOM AND STEP DADDY, “MY LITTLE ONE!”

High art in and of itself but I found myself drawn down to the sand, down to Gabriel Medina’s feet.


Have you seen before?

Yes you have. Directly on Michelangelo’s David standing tall and proud in Florence, Italy.

Which all begs the question. Is Gabriel Medina a high renaissance masterpiece, perfect in every single way?

Have a think. Respond below.

Mick Fanning (left) giving the Gold Coast water wiiiings.
Mick Fanning (left) giving the Gold Coast water wiiiings.

Surf stars Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning delight and inspire by selflessly ferrying stranded residents, pets as Australia’s Gold Coast catastrophically floods!

Winning praise on social media.

Torrential rains have overwhelmed Australia’s Gold Coast in the past few days leading to wild floods, water buried roads, destroyed property and stranded citizens yearning to be dry. Authorities estimate that over 20,000 households have been affected, highways and byways collapsed, pushing hundreds into cardboard homeless encampments.

Yet even in all this misery, these heaping spoonfuls of misfortune, heroes rise and, this time, that hero happens to be none other that White Lighting himself.

In the just released story, World champion surfer surprises locals with legendary act during NSW floods, we learn…

On Tuesday, pharmacist Skye Swift put a call out on social media for a ride from Tweed to Murwillumbah to make sure residents could access essential medication, The Age reported.

To her surprise, none other than the three-time world surfing champion rocked up on a jet ski offering to give her a ride.

As well as winning praise on social media, Mr Fanning was able to bring smiles to the faces of residents doing it tough.

The 40-year-old lives on the Gold Coast and since retiring from professional surfing, has become actively involved in the community and local culinary scene.

Fellow surf star and 2012 world champ Joel Parkinson was also spotted lending a hand, ferrying stranded residents alongside Mr Fanning on Monday and Tuesday.

Parkinson, the news noted, also saved many pets and a four-year-old boy.

Delightful and inspiring but as I read of the heroics, I was forced re-check the headline and realized that I had correctly understood it at first pass. World champion surfer… How come World Champion Joel Parkinson got left entirely off?

Institutional bias?

Well, to add injury to insult, Parkinson returned home from his selfless act only to find his garage door open and his wife’s car stolen.

“All day I’d been helping people who were close to losing their lives and their houses and I came home to that,” he told The Age.

“There were so many people out there trying to do good, but some people just want to do bad.”

Well, I’ve put his name in the title here and ahead of Mick Fanning’s too. A small token of good but at least something. Here, also, is a picture of him enjoying a ride on a ski.

Kong at Sunset back in the wild days of 1987. | Photo: Jeff Divine

Surf historian Matt Warshaw slams Hurley Pro at Sunset Beach as “a grievous shoulder riding display”; offers compelling 35-year-old footage as prima facie evidence!

"I would say it is the greatest fade in surf history, except there are so few others in contention that it seems like the only fade in surf history."

All four minutes of this new Elkerton edit are great, but obviously I was building up to the big Sunset finale, and while every wave in that series is amazing—and a hard rebuke to the grievous shoulder-riding display we got during the Hurley Pro—the wave at 3:10 takes us to the fissioning core of the Elkerton-Sunset combine.

I would say it is the greatest fade in surf history, except there are so few others in contention that it seems like the only fade in surf history.

The fade is a set-up move, a prelude, a way to get you where you want to be. Sunset is to the fade what Périgord is to the black truffle, and hold that thought because we’ll revisit France further down the page. 

Sunset is a right-breaking wave, yes, but to ride it at all you’re gonna spend a lot of time pointing straight to the beach, and to ride it at the highest level you will at times be aiming east, against the grain and toward the point, adding some left-angling zig to your predominately right-angling zag. 

Michael Tomson didn’t say as much in his declaration of Sunset as the ultimate big-wave break. But that compass-swinging range of direction is a big part of the Sunset draw—or it used to be, anyway, back when the best surfers paddled all the way outside to ride it.

Jeff Hakman had a deep-fade-to-bottom turn so precise and perfect that he looked as if he’d penciled it beforehand with a French Curve. Barry Kanaiupuni had that smooth fade, too, but where Hakman was always a rock-steady Earl Palmer 2/4 man, BK could jam out some crazy Miles Davis 7/16 shit.

But again, unless you were a real connoisseur, the fade was just the thing you did before the massive bottom turn.

Except for Elkerton.

The Elkerton fade I mentioned above is both prelude and the thing itself. 

It can stand on its own. 

Hakman and BK and everybody else I’ve ever seen do a giant Sunset fade are all still essentially fixed on, and oriented to, the right. Their eyes might look for the bottom, but are just as likely sizing up the section to come. 

Gary is not. 

But he isn’t turning Sunset into a left, exactly, either. 

Instead, he’s doing something that reminds me of that great Gavin Rudolph quote, spoken just after winning the 1971 Smirnoff as a North Shore rookie.

“The other guys surf Sunset like it should be surfed,” Gavin said, his eye pinwheeling, a bit stunned on his good fortune as he’d ridden Sunset for the first time just the day before. “Where I sort of surf it like it shouldn’t be surfed, but should be surfed, you know what I mean?”

No? Okay, try this.

Elkerton, when the moment requires it, rides Sunset like a snowboarder, not a surfer. Unbound and full-speed, inventing and tracking along a fall-line that nobody else could even see.

Halfway through the fade he does an uphill carve, and the thrill and velocity and sheer joy of that moment is as clear to me today as it was 35 years ago when I watched live from the bleachers.

It also, weirdly, looks 100% cutting edge here in 2022, although it is basically an extinct move. Zero chance we’d have seen anything resembling that turn the Hurley event, even if the pros had paddled out to the actually takeoff zone to begin their rides. 

Equipment is destiny, and Gary’s choice of equipment—a deep-six channel bottom, just north of 8′ long, twice the weight of Barron Mamiya’s Hurley-winning double step-up—is now found only in board collections and at the business end of Nick Carroll’s quiver. 

Most pros, today and from yesteryear, would have difficulty turning Gary’s board with anything less than a block-and-tackle rig. 

Elkerton, of course, plants his feet and swings that thing around as easily as a certain newly-liberated and very angry primate climbing the Empire State Building with his best girl.

Gary as a person was (and is) as fascinating as his surfing was powerful. 

A good part of his mostly school-free childhood was spent on a shrimp trawler, with his father, Bully Elkerton. Gary was still known as “Fat Boy” when Quiksilver picked up him at age 16, gave him a media makeover, and turned him loose on the surf world as “Kong,” with strict orders to not go pro but instead surf hard, wear Quiks, get photographed, and basically be a half-scary half-funny surf-action figure.

Elkerton did that for four years and did it perfectly (except he bucked orders and joined the WCT), drunk and coked-up on the regular, but mostly just running on his own premium blend of aggression and confidence and ambition.

Then at 22, Elkerton moved to France with his new wife, demanded everybody to stop calling him “Kong,” and ground out three world title runner-up finishes. 

Compromises were made. 

Except in big surf, Elkerton wasn’t as much fun to watch as he had been. 

But what an incredible turn it was, for this human cartoon to remake himself into a French-speaking sportsman who gave up beer for sparkling water, leaned in gracefully for double-cheek kisses, and could hold his own while talking politics and culture.

Eventually, inevitably I suppose, we later learned (by way of an excellent if heavily ghost-written biography humbly titled Kong: the Life and Times of a Surfing Legend) of Elkerton’s divorce, his post-tour drift, job loss, another marriage, and fatherhood. 

He worked construction for a while. Opened a surf school, then shut it down. Did some pro tour coaching; hired out as “brand ambassador” for a Maldives boat tour. 

Knocked around, in other words.

All of this seemed relatable in ways that the earlier stages of Elkerton’s life did not. There comes a point in adulthood where you realize there is no end zone for happiness, no getting over completely; that doubt and regret and monkey-mind chatter can be reduced but not eliminated.

Or you don’t realize these things, and suffer.

Elkerton closes his book, disappointingly, with a literal happy-face cliche: “The best surfer is the one with the biggest smile.” 

The better ending is found up front, in the book’s introduction, as Gary recalls collapsing on the beach after winning the 2000 Masters world title, which puts him face-to-face with his own past, specifically the “failure” of his three WCT runner-up finishes.

It wasn’t a celebration, and it wasn’t an expression of relief or triumph. I collapsed because I finally felt the full weight of the gorilla I had on my back. I had no idea how heavy he was until I let him go; until I saw that I was hanging onto him, not the other way around. I’d been carrying the big bastard around since I was twelve years old, loving him and ignoring him equally, but always feeding him. And second-place finishes feed the beast like nothing else.

[I realized] I no longer needed to keep thinking about him, living up to his legend in the water and out, or wrestling him kicking and screaming into the background. 

I collected myself and walked toward the approaching throng of wellwishers and beyond them into a brand-new and much-improved relationship. With a gorilla called Kong.

(You like this? Matt Warshaw delivers a surf essay every Sunday, PST. All of ’em a pleasure to read. Maybe time to subscribe to Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, yeah? Three bucks a month.)

Wild scenes on Oahu’s North Shore as beachfront house collapses into the ocean in the middle of the night, “Today the first house on the North Shore fell in. This is one of many; in the next couple of years all of these might fall in!”

“Brings new meaning to the world beachfront.”

One of those pretty clapboard houses built on the sand at Rocky Point on Oahu’s North Shore has collapsed into the Pacific after heavy winter swells gobbled up all the sand.

At one am, the Honolulu Fire Department responded to reports of a downed power line and “that a house was falling into the ocean.”

Neighbours are freaking out, natch, ‘cause they figure their multi-million dollar joints could be next.

“It makes me emotional because I’m hoping that all these agencies are here to be helpful and maybe they have solutions,” neighbour Jeannie Martinson told KITV4.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson Suzanne Case says the only long-term solution is gonna be for those houses to move back from the beachfront.

“It is a terrible situation and we are very sympathetic with it and at the same time we don’t have all the answers, you know, we can’t solve everything,” Case told KITV4.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi told a press conference they were gonna look into the usual short-term solutions, sand bags etc, but added, “I think we have to be in favor regrettably of what’s happening in the world, and I say regrettably because climate change is real, sea level rise is definitely real.”

Case agreed and called the situation “a long time coming. We knew it was going to happen eventually. It’s a dangerous situation, as debris is falling into the ocean. This is sad … climate change, sea level rise, and wave energy in new powerful patterns. This is a beach that’s important to everyone. The houses are built on sand berms and there’s just no way they can last long-term. We continue to encourage the homeowners here to seek other alternatives.”

Three-time NSSA champ and runner-up to Zeke Lau’s Ultimate Surfer, Koa Smith, said, “Today the first house on the North Shore fell in. It sucks, man. The ocean takes what it wants. We’re just living here temporarily. It sucks for the family. This is one of many, be really interesting, in the next couple of years all these might fall in, over at Pupukea and all that. Brings new meaning to beachfront.”


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Surfing monkey re-emerges as physical representation of great evils caused by marijuana use in shameful public service announcement evoking WSL’s war against longboarding!


Now, this is an older public service announcement, first appearing on air over a decade ago, but has recently re-emerged, being freshly rolled out by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America as a perfect metaphor for the great evils associated with marijuana usage.

In it, a surfing monkey bank can be seen rotating while an announcer sells it as “great for graduations” etc. then throws to caller “Scott” in Nashville who just bought fifteen of them. His friends can be heard chuckling joyously in the background while “Scott” answers “Yeah” then joins their mirth.

The ominous words “Marijuana. A very expensive habit” pop onto screen.

Now, this would have been left a relic but as previously stated it has been re-issued and what could better represent the internecine war between the World Surf League and its longboarders? WSL played by the hostess who is trying to lowball the surfing monkey, slashing its price by near half while sneering at the fine young man and his happy friends wanting to save it.

Absolutely uncalled for and extremely rude.